Religious Sensibilities have no Place in Positions of Influence or Responsibility.
Today I learned from a bewildered English colleague that Savita Halappanavar, a dentist based in County Galway in the Republic of Ireland, died in hospital from septicaemia largely due to the draconian anti-abortion laws of Ireland.
It seems that Mrs Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, was miscarrying. Mr Halappanavar has stated that his wife accepted the sad loss and requested that labour be induced. Why? Because Savita, a 31-year-old woman, was in agonising pain and her foetus was not going to survive either way. Upon making this request she was met with the response that, as Mr. Halappanavar told reporters, she “could not have an abortion because Ireland was a Catholic country and the foetus was still alive”.
Let’s consider that response. She was not denied a potentially life saving abortion because legal guidelines prevented it (which is not the case by the way), but because Ireland is a “Catholic country”! This is a fucking outrage! The statement, if accurate, is such an odd way of framing the issue it comes across as borderline racist. Did the person take a look at Mr Halappanavar and his wife and decide that they were not Catholic, were not ‘local’ and that they must understand their place in the ‘Catholic’ country that is Ireland? Where the tenuous signs of life of a dying foetus are more important than a fully realised human life in the form of Savita, who was in actual identifiable pain, who had an actual conscience, an actual personality and actual loving relationships with other living people? What exactly do the beliefs of a person about what kind of country Ireland is have anything to do with informing a medical decision? I can’t wrap my mind around this. Something is very wrong with this picture.
I am sick and tired of religion being used to inform medical decisions, be it female circumcision in some parts of the world or indeed male. That religious beliefs appear to have influenced the decision making process in this instance – which ultimately led to the death of Savita - is equally as abhorrent as the previous religiously informed ‘medical’ decisions noted.
I’m going to be frank about this. These people need to be removed from any position of influence in society. There is no place in any workplace for someone who allows their personal beliefs about a deity to influence their professional decisions. Outside of a church or related venture I’d like to hear of an example where someone thinks this is not the case. Many jobs in organisations insist that employees sign non-disclosure contracts so that inside information not be shared or revealed. Now, even if an employee does not agree with some things that may be going on they are legally bound to abide by this contract. Do we need an equivalent for religious beliefs? Do we really need to start asking medical staff to sign a legally binding contract stating that their personal, religious, beliefs be put aside in favour of following legal and medical practice? While there is a risk that someone is delusional enough to deny a lifesaving abortion and use religion as an excuse I think we do need such legal assurances. If someone was legally obligated to follow accepted medical and legal procedure or face retribution it may prevent a repeat of what happened in Galway University Hospital. If someone refused to sign this contract – which, let’s face it is doing nothing but instruct them to do their job properly – then they simply should not be employable.
I will repeat myself. There is NO place for people in any position of influence or power who allow religious views to dictate important, potentially life saving decisions. This is a dark day for Ireland. How someone can stand there and proclaim Ireland a ‘Catholic country’ after all the pain and suffering the church has caused this small island sickens me. So continues the destructive influence of religion. May it end soon as I for one am sick to the back teeth of hearing about it. May Savita rest in peace and I dearly hope her husband Praveen finds some justice in all of this. Shame on you HSE. Shame on you.
EDIT: See follow-up